Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Migraines and Sutures

I was brushing my teeth last night and suddenly I felt like I was on a boat in rocky waters.  A few moments later my head started to hurt right over my left eye and quickly spiraled into "I have to lie down, damnit" pain.  I felt too bad to go downstairs to get ibuprofen so I took some Tylenol and half a valium (in case it was a tension headache ... I wasn't sure since I haven't had a migraine in twenty years). and went to bed and did some lymphatic drainage around my face and neck.  It did help the pain go away until I got up this morning and started moving around. 

Migraines - through truly the suck of all sucks - are also fascinating.  When people say they feel like their head is going to explode, it really is how they feel because there is so much vaso-dialation in the head that the pressure is so intense.  I've seen people rub their head and complain "Oh, I have a migraine" but I'm always dubious because they're still up and functioning.  Everyone I knew (including myself) can not fuction at all during a migraine until it's over and you're in that weird "migraine hang-over" place where you feel like you still have "memory of the pain" but it's not so bad you can't function, and you feel kind of traumatized and wiped out.  There is no definite "this is what causes some people to have migraines and some people to not" although there are definitely recognized triggers for people who do get them.  It's one of those mysteries that if I had gone into medical research I would've probably wanted to study them.  Well, that and/or autoimmune diseases.

Speaking of "if I'd gone to medical school" - my vet was out yesterday to do a follow-up after four months of Geir being on Adequan to help with stiffness in his hind end.  I gave her some of my equine massage cards and told her that perhaps one day I would actually be certified and could work professionally so could she refer me? She said definitely (yay!).  (I'm STILL waiting for the Dept. of Health to sort out the fiasco of who gets my application and how do they process it ... seriously? They even asked me "Where did you get this application and where did it say to go?" and I told them on the Dept. of Health's website and I mailed it to the address given with the instructions ... aaaargh). 

Anyway, I said I had a lot of fun following her that one day to all her appointments and she said I'm welcome to come with her any time I want.  So, I may jump on that and go again with her a couple more times.  She also said it's a good way to meet people and connect with future clients.  I said if life had been different I would've liked being a vet and she had a "excited little kid moment" and said, "Oh, can I show you something cool?" and pulled out her phone and the first photo was of a horse's leg completely ripped open all the way down to the bone.  It literally looked like they'd taken a large chunk of flesh, muscle, tissue off the front of the horse's leg.  Of course it was after the wound had been cleaned so it looked more like a surgery photo than a photo straight after the accident where it's all chaotic.  I said I had no idea what to do in that situation.  How would you cover it to patch it up? Take tissue from somewhere else?

So, she showed me the next photo which was right after she'd sewn it up.  It was a very intricate pattern - not just a straight line of stitches.  She literally sewed it together like a patchwork quilt or puzzle pieces.  I asked how she'd been able to find skin to do that and she went back to the previous picture and showed how she first used the deeper tissue to pull it together and then sewed that together, which pulled the outer skin closer together in order to be able to sew that together.  She showed me the five days later photo and it looked really good.  Then she explained that it would look worse for a bit because the body would "eat away" any dead skin edges and the would would look a little more open, but that is a natural part of the healing process before the body then starts healing the healthy tissue ends together.  Totally fascinating!  And amazing to me what one can do with such a bad injury.  But then that's how I decided to hire her was watching her sew up a nasty wound on a horse at my old stable and being so impressed with what a good job she did.  They were hiring fairly recently for a vet assistant that could ride along with the vets in their practice and they would train on the job for a person to get certified, but honestly, I'm loving the equine massage stuff too and it's far more challenging for me than being a vet tech - fun as that would be if I worked with my vet.

Poor Beetle was very sore the other day when Miss C. was riding him so she asked me to look at him.  We took him and Geir out on the trail just to stretch their legs but when we came back I asked if she could walk/trot him in the arena so I could see what she was talking about.  He balked at the idea of trotting and instead of his normal long, low neck and happy swaying trot, he did lower his head, but in a defensive way, with his ears pinned back, and his movements were jerky and strained.  The conversation turned to "What do you think caused it?" and I realized in a professional situation the best thing would be to say "There's no way for me to know, but this is what I'm feeling."  Although, as a friend I too want to know what caused it and try to figure it out.  He just recently went back to turn-out in the big field so the obvious assumption is he yahoo-ed and either slipped and fell or strained something.  But as a professional there is no way to know what caused it and making assumptions is no good.

Miss C. asked if I thought she should keep riding him to help him stretch or give him time off.  I said that wasn't my call to make that it was her decision, but that he was having stiffness, pain in these areas and she should watch for higher levels of discomfort and pain and make her decision based on that.  Then I added, "But as your friend I would say no, he's in too much pain right now and the stretching aspect of riding would be over ridden by the pain aspect."  Then I put my professional hat back on and said I'd show her some ground stretches which damnit! I didn't end up having time to do!  Well, things are more lax when you're only practicing your professional role with friends.

The cool thing was, his left side of his longissimus dorsi was like a hard wire running along the side of his spine.  His right side was hypertonic but nothing like the left.  I've honestly never felt anything like that before.  I made Miss C. feel it and said, "This is nowhere near normal!"  So I focused mostly on that part of his back because of time constraints.  First I did some manual ligament therapy (which is really, really cool stuff!) then did a little myofascial release in order to actually loosen stuff up enough to get to things, then found a couple very uncomfortable stress points and worked those out.  When I was done Beetle had yawned and stretched and farted all over the place and the wire in his back was gone.  When I walked him back to his house he had his head practically on the ground and was swaying happily with his walk.  Unfortunately, because I didn't have a lot of time, I worry that it was a reaction to compensating for other stuff going on, so it's going to come back.  And sure enough I did hear from our boss that Miss C. said he was really stiff again yesterday.  So, I need to find time to spend a whole hour looking at what other stuff is going on with him.

But I love the solving the mystery aspect of massage.  And I love how happy the horses get when you can help them feel better.  Beetle was so happy near the end of his massage he turned his head and gently tried to groom me!  The same thing happened with Pal yesterday when I was working on his lower back on some "stuckness" around where he had a crushed sacrum (which is why he was retired to the school after being a competitive reining horse).  After he threw his head all around, yawned a bunch of times, shook out his whole body and farted, he decided to thank me by trying to groom me.  That really, right there makes it such an awesome job!

If you need some cuteness this morning, here is a video of the director of the school I've been studying at, giving a massage to an animal most of us don't have the opportunity to work on: 

Monday, April 28, 2014

I've been thinking a lot about this ...

Last week I posted a photo on social media (that I thought was a non-descript photo of someone far away) and asked if my horse trainer folks could clarify if the horse was being ridden in classical dressage form, or if (as it looked to me) the horse's head was being cranked down.  Well, my big mistake there is that no photo on the internet is "non-descript" and that apparently people can figure out who they think the photo is just by the arm and hand in the photo (although as of the end of the fiasco two people were swearing they had proof it was the person they thought - and they both had "proof" it was their person (which if they both had so much proof it literally meant it was two different people).

So, big lesson learned:  do not use any photos of anyone or anything that aren't my own with approval from the subject of the photo because someone will "figure out" they know that person (even when in this case they obviously didn't because two people couldn't be right).  Because I don't want to make a discussion on the best functional way to train horses turn into belittling individuals.

The other thing I thought was since I'm trying to build my business as an equine massage therapist I really can't afford to be controversial.  And I don't have the stomach for it. 

But I've been thinking about it a lot from my instructor point of view too.  And as a riding instructor it is my responsibility to teach my students how to ethically and fairly handle their horses.  Why did I feel such a strong pull in my heart to become an equine massage therapist and a riding instructor? It's because I want to do what is best for the horses and be an advocate for them.  That is more important to me than being accepted by the community that uses Rolkur or abuses their horses.  Now granted there is a large community of high level folks here in the Pacific Northwest who achieve Grand Prix level without doing that and luckily I've only come across one trainer out of many, many who I felt was abusing his horses.  And we are lucky in our arena we have so many qualified judges willing to put their time into Pony Club and schooling shoes and other educational avenues to teach folks you can achieve high levels of training/riding all the way up to Grand Prix champions without abusing your horses.  So, it's not like I've found much need to speak out around my area (yet).  But I also don't want to fall into that trap that exists in so many communities (be it horses, or other sports, or religions, or whatever common interest has drawn folks together) where we all feel we have to be silent when someone is doing something abusive to a creature who is at their mercy.

So, I've decided that I will continue to pursue my education in how to train horses the correct way - the non-abusive way - the way that empowers them to use their bodies correctly and soundly for years to come.  And I will not hold my tongue in public forums if someone asks my opinion.  I've been looking at a lot of blogs this last weekend from folks who are trainers and want to stop the abuse that is Rolkur (or the more politically correct term "hyperflexion" or "deep and round") and so far all of them show photos of riders where they either block out the face or blur it.  I don't want to do that because if I did stuff early on because I didn't know any better and I can look back at photos from when I was a kid or even eight years ago and critique it.  Like "Hey - I'm not wearing a helmet and I'm leaning forward" "I'm totally bracing/standing in the stirrups there and not using my core as balance"  "I'm pulling my horse's head too hard with the reins and she's not on the bit, she's bracing against it".  I would be humiliated if someone put an obvious photo of me up and started going off about it.   I also don't want everything I say about handling horses to be about the negative - don't do this, don't do that, I hate it when people do this or that.  Many of the training blogs seem to focus more on what NOT to do, then advocating what they've found *to do*.

But I also am not going to just blindly walk around saying "Everything's fine. We're all on equal footing. We all have places we need to improve."  Because the truth is, yes, all us students are always improving (and that includes trainers because all the ones I know still clinic and are still learning).  But if a student or trainer is actively hurting a horse, I'm sorry if it rocks the boat, but that is not ok.  And if that trainer is teaching his or her students how to actively hurt the horse that is even worse!

How does that work though as an equine massage therapist? Well, my professional title only gives me license to talk about what I feel in the horse's body and what I can do to change that.  I have no qualifications to say *why* I feel that stuff in the horse's body or how the horse should be used/trained or any of that.  Just "this is what I feel"  "this is what I can do to change what I feel to something more comfortable and functional for the horse."  That's it.  When I've got that hat on that is all I will say.

But if a client who uses Rolkur techniques sees a social media comment or a blog post about my belief as a horse owner and riding instructor on how horses should be trained/treated and they are offended, well, that's too bad.  I can find other clients.   And if a trainer is that worried that I am not knowledgable enough to tell the difference between using side reins for training a horse properly and using Rolkur then that's not my problem.  I'm not going to pretend everything is just rosey and peachy-keen wonderful in the horse community if I run into folks where it is not.  And if I am hired by someone who I see abusing the horse in my presence I'm not going to smile and say "it's just their way" I'm going to be blunt and say I am not comfortable with that and excuse myself and say there are many fine equine massage therapists out there but I can't work with that person.

My love for horses (and other animals) comes first over money or prestige.  And if that makes me controversial that's fine.  I'm not going to pick on individuals or nit-pick them in public or start arguments about it, but I'm damn well going to stand up and say "There IS a proper way to train your horses - one of love and respect and challenges that are appropriate for them.  And I can not stand by and be silent if people are cruel to their horses - even if it is just out of ignorance."

I think what really helped me clarify this position for myself was talking to some fellow horse professionals who are confident enough and educated enough to understand the balance.  Trainer KL has been an enormous help with me in learning how to choose where my boundaries should be for myself (she hasn't told me what those boundaries should be but given me good information for me to make my own choice where they should be).   So, I can rein myself in and not be over the top confrontational (which I tend to want to be) but I don't have to give up my values for a career.  No way. 

This video also inspired me.  I like the way he focuses almost completely on the positive but acknowledges there are some negatives out there.  But 90% of what he's showing and saying is positive and really gets the point across well. 

I actually found this video to explain to some of my students how we're training Geir.  To them, Geir is a sweet horse who is already rideable so what are we training him for?  And during my training lessons,  to the naked eye I'm just out there mostly walking (or occasionally) trotting in circles talking to Trainer KL.  How in the world is just walking around in circles not noticeably doing anything "training him" and what the heck am I talking to her about while I'm doing that?  Well, this explains a lot of what we are doing/talking about.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

One of those afternoons

We're having one of those Sunday afternoons at our house where everything is oddly peaceful.  The dogs are sprawled on the floor sleeping, one cat is buried in couch cushions sleeping and the other is under our bed sleeping and my daughter and husband are both reading.  Nobody is very motivated to clean up the clutter that is our kitchen island counter or coffee table or wash the dishes.

My week off from work has disappeared and it's back to the grindstone tomorrow.  Even not working it seemed like I was awfully busy.  For one thing I started Geir in the serious work-out mode.  Not just getting ridden lightly two or three times a week, but actually working out.  Now if I could just get motivated to do that myself.  He's been getting worked on the lunge line with a loose side rein to help him bend, and ridden with more trotting and a more active walk (not his half-asleep shuffle he enjoys) and every couple days he gets chased around for some cantering and yahooing.  He's still - as Trainer KL described it - trying to figure out where his feet go in the canter so he's not balanced or strong enough to be working under saddle with it yet, but he's building his strength, balance and endurance by doing it on his own during free lunging.  He's taking to it like a sport.

Speaking of him being the super-Fjord, I was working him in the outdoor arena this morning and it was incredibly windy and he seemed pretty oblivious to it.  His other Fjord friend, DJ, and his owner were also working in the outdoor arena and we decided to take them out on the trail around the neighboring farm to stretch their legs and relax after their hard work.  I figured since it was so windy we'd go try and if he seemed really angstful or anxious we could just turn around and come back or I could just get off and walk him back in the worst case scenario (which is hard to imagine with him). 

As it was both the boys were totally relaxed about it.  They looked around a little like when bicycles would whiz by on the neighboring Sammamish Slew trail, or when the plastic on the greenhouse walls would rattle and blow or the plastic they laid over the crops would undulate like black waves in the wind, but they didn't seem concerned.  Geir was extremely concerned about the puddles and even though DJ plodded through them with no problem right in front of us, Geir would bend his body in all sorts of contortions to not step in them, no matter how much I used my body and reins to try and keep him straight.  If we'd had a lot of room in front of us I think he may have gone through them if he could trot at full speed but then we would've run right into DJ's butt.  And since DJ is quite a bit younger, bigger and stronger I didn't want to see what that would look like.  But despite being seventeen and a little fat, Geir is still a Fjord and my leg aids were no match for his complete unwillingness to step in a puddle.  Finally after about thirty or so puddles I got him to walk through one and he got lots of pets and snuggles and praise.  But the next two he avoided like they were portals to Hell.

At one point he tenses up his body like he wanted to jump over one and I told him "If you jump over this puddle I will be so amazed and proud but at the same time will fear it is the first sign of the apocalypse."  I miss jumping.  I do worry that might be one of the things I am too old and breakable to do again, but after the trick-riding class a couple weeks ago I'm feeling the need for some more adrenaline inducing challenges.

I am looking forward to seeing my students after a week off, I have to admit.  Miss C. and I realized we refer to them to outsiders as "our kids".  I have three students right now who are "special needs" (is that still a P.C. term?) and I've been doing some research on how to be a better teacher to them.  So far what I've been reading goes along with what I instinctually would think of doing when trying to come up with teaching strategies on my own, so that is nice.  But I still worry about not having any formal education in therapeutic riding so I've been doing my homework.

I was telling my brother about one of my students who does not have a corpus collosum (the part of one's brain that connects the right and left hemisphere).  This is a hard to describe neurological issue because it's such a hard to pinpoint thing, what the communication between hemispheres means to the way a brain works.  Despite what doctors said 27 years ago, she is not a vegetable as they predicted, but can walk, talk, dress herself, do simple chores, ride a bike and now she is learning to ride a horse.  I do think a lot about how she must relate to the world though because it's hard to fathom.  She lives in the moment completely and does not have a concept of how long an hour or a day is.  But she remembers experiences and things that happen to her, she just doesn't really connect to the time frame of when they did.  She also doesn't distinguish all the time between what really happened and what she thought was happening.  So, if she found an empty box and thought her brother threw the contents away, that is how she'll remember it, even after she's told he didn't throw it away, it was taken out and put somewhere else.  You can't really hold a conversation with her because her brain doesn't work in the way needed to verbally interact.  And she can't make leaps of logic like "if you do a then b or c could happen" - but that's also nice because she is not able to be conniving or manipulative because her brain doesn't work like that.  She also has no filter and will say everything she thinks and feels as it's happening.  So, if you're a jerk, she'll just blurt out that you're scary and hide behind a trusted person.  If you're a cute guy she'll giggle and say you're really cute.  And she's extremely loving and happy, although she is kind of skittish and nervous like a horse.  Basically, she views and experiences the world much like a horse.  It's very hard not to instantly like her because she is such a truly innocent soul.  My husband commented the other day that she's kind of the embodiment of Buddhism or the complete being of one's self without ego. 

Anyway, what was interesting to me was that I was telling my brother about her because he also works with kids with special needs (only he does it with advanced degrees and immensely more formal education than I have) and when I was telling him about this student he got really sad and said it was absolutely tragic.  I tried to explain if he met her he wouldn't be sad for her but the subject really seemed to bum him out so we didn't talk much more about it.  I think if he met her he would see that sadness or pity were not emotions that are evoked when you meet her.  As one of the teens who assists me in her class said about her after they met, "How could you not like her? She's great! And she's a walking miracle!"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bumbling along ...

I've been trying to write a business plan for what I want to do with my equine massage career, now that there is some hope I may actually be certified someday (I've been going around with the Dept. of Health for some reason trying to get certification.  I finally called them on Monday and found out that my application had been sent to the wrong department and had been sitting dormant for two months and nobody had planned to do anything with it because it wasn't for their department so they just shoved it away.  Even though I sent it to the right address.  Luckily, I found someone who said she would make sure she found the correct department - although she didn't know where that was even though I told her and I told her about the info. on the Dept. of Health's website page where I downloaded the application - still it was very hard for her to find anyone who knew what I was talking about in the actual Dept. of Health.  Even though it is listed right there on their website that this department does exist - apparently know one there can actually find it.  Anyway, I'm supposed to call her back next week and see if they managed to find out where my application goes so it can be processed and maybe I'll get certified ... sigh ...)

Anyway, there is hope that one day I will get my certification and will be a professional equine massage practitioner and I have a whole business plan worked out in my head and I am in the process of putting it down on paper.  It involves rehab. boarding where people board their horses with me temporarily while they're on stall rest and needing rehab. care.  I'll work directly with their vet and farrier to make sure I follow all rehab. instructions (hand walking, bandaging, administering meds, etc) along with therapeutic massage.  It's something that is apparently really needed for those folks who have horses, love them dearly, but have to work 40 hours a week to be able to afford them and just can't be out at their barn they board at two or three times a day to soak hay, or give meds or hand walk twice a day.  There are some wonderful places that do stuff like that (I'm modeling my idea on a mini Pegasus Horse Farm.) But they are extremely expensive and I will be more affordable - that said I will also not offer the premier rehab services or training that they do either so if people need that they go to them - I'm not directly any sort of competition for them.  I'm more for the layman horse owner whose hobby-show horse has gone lame.  Not the Emerald Down race track owners or professional Grand Prix riders.  Maybe some day I could grow and add water therapy and professional trainers to staff but for now it'll be a much smaller, humbler business.

I would also like to offer Horsemanship for College Students classes because I think there is a big need for that.  It would be a class/clinic on basic horse handling and ground safety for people planning to go to vet school, equine massage school, or farrier school who have no horse handling experience.  I am not surprised that the smaller schools like farrier and massage schools don't have horse handling classes because their focus and mission is very clear-cut and those schools are much smaller operations than state universities.  But I also found out that they don't teach that in pre-vet or vet schools either.  My vet said at her school they expect you to come in with a prerequesite of knowing how to handle horses and she said that there were one or two in her class that struggled because they had no horse handling experience at all.   So, I would like to offer that class too.  I know some awesome horse folks I could hopefully get on board to help me teach a class like that and I already have a sample curriculum.

So, now the question is where will I have this facility?  That is the big question.  My husband is currently not on board with moving our family to horse property any time soon and works in such a stressful field that he doesn't want to project any time in the future when he will be on board.  So, I'm looking at the feasibility of renting/leasing space to do this.  I did want to do all this on "the magical island" but I'm not sure if I'm leasing space I could pull that off without actually living there which is not currently an option (moving being not something my husband is on board with even if it was to a rental).  So,  I'm trying to do that "open mind" thing and just keep my eyes open until I find a way to manage to follow this dream.  I've had a couple ideas that don't sound practical at all, but that just makes me think they aren't quite the right idea yet and I just haven't found the right idea.  I'm one of those people that no matter what happens clings to the belief that when I find the right direction I'm meant to go, the barriers will fall away.  Even if it is scary and uncomfortable at first.  That's how it was when I quit office work and decided to work completely with horses.  I kept my eyes open for any possibility and refused to limit my thinking and it all started the fall together. 

I was reading an article recently in Scientific American about the Einstellung Effect and I'm trying to be very cognizant of not falling into that myself and just looking at the "easy answer" (but the one that doesn't work) and not actually seeing the even easier answer (the one that does work).  Much easier said than done!

And for a good morning song - this is one of my daughter's current favorite songs that I hear frequently throughout the day now since I got her the cd.  Yeah ... I had to say something about the stripper scene in the video and my daughter's reply was not to be so serious and make such a big deal out of stuff that is a non-event. Yep.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Collection Controversy

Doesn't that subject line sound like a sequel to one of the Bourne Identity movies? Ok, maybe not to anyone else, but it does to me. 

I had a little kerfuffle on a social networking site yesterday for asking questions about how to see the difference between proper and improper body mechanics of horses being ridden.  It's something that I am trying to learn as I continue my education as a riding instructor.  And when it comes to Dressage - my discipline of choice - it can be very, very hard to see if you aren't really well educated in horse bio-mechanics.  And although I am getting there, I am not quite there yet.  But then this is why I go to clinics and scribe for judges at schooling shows (and probably drive them nuts asking as many questions as I can get away with).  But I made the mistake of posting a photo and asking questions about it, assuming since you couldn't see the rider it would be fine.  But someone popped up out of the woodwork and started posting about how this was some bigwig trainer and she could prove it and posted a bunch of links and photos of him and the facility the photo was taken out and I quickly deleted the whole thread.  So, that was a fiasco that totally stressed me out.

Because as an instructor it's ok to be "controversial" in regards to saying "In my opinion you're riding that horse in such a way that it's hurting it".   I've heard plenty of instructors and judges say behind closed doors they don't like how someone else may do things, and some folks (like Gerd Heuschmann) make a living out of loudly declaring that such-and-such is hurting the horse.  Now granted I appreciate Gerd for that and how passionate he is about it, but I would not want to be him.  And more than that, I don't just have an instructor hat anymore, I have a bodyworker hat.  And there is the big issue.  I can not be controversial as a bodyworker.  I can't expect to have a successful business and bring my talent (which I believe I have - I just need much more experience and education to really be good at it) to help horses be more sound and better performance horses, or help them rehab from injuries, if I'm "that instructor with all those strong ideas".

So, where is the balance?  I want to be able to have discussions with folks on training issues, but I can't do it in public forums because if I say "Oh yeah, I've learned that x-y-z training hurts the horse ..." suddenly I'm now not wanted at any facility where they do that, or where they are thinking they might be perceived as doing that.  For instance, if I were to say "I don't like Rolkur - I wish people wouldn't do it",  I also runs the risk of anyone who say uses side-reins for training thinking I am not a good person to work on their horses because I'm too opinionated and will be rude to them (the irony there being I use side reins for lunging when called for and every trainer I know does - and side reins are not the same as Rolkur but folks may not know that I know that).  It's that fine line.

That said, I found a good article about my question from yesterday  as it pertains to wearing my hat as an instructor.  Now, this may sound silly to any Grand Prix riders or trainers or judges out there, but try to go back to when you knew very little and you may remember what it's like to be trying to learn the intricacies.  But one of the ways I'm learning to train Geir to frame up is by having a firm contact with the reins.  This is not just Trainer KL,  I did the same stuff with Maiden with Trainer K.  Developing contact with reins and using ones body to support movement flowing from back to front is all part of conditioning and training.  But it is confusing where that fine line starts and where it ends.  How do I as a rider feel that?  I would like to continue to learn to ride to higher levels of Dressage and also eventually teach higher levels.  But I need to really understand why I'm doing things and what the intricacies are.  Luckily, Trainer KL is very good (like Trainer K was) at explaining these things so that will be my question today in class. 

But apparently, talking about this stuff in a social network or public forum and asking others opinions is going to get me in trouble because it will alienate folks who do it differently when it comes to being a equine massage practitioner.

I didn't really take into account this issue when I thought of pursuing these two career paths simultaneously.   I don't do well with navigating these types of waters.  It feels very political and I think it would do me well if I could find some sort of public relations course on how to stand up for what I believe in without ruining myself as a business person.  I used to have a lot of respect for the judges and high up trainers I know just because of their knowledge and expertise, but that respect has now grown even bigger because none of them have totally destroyed their reputation by spouting off about their opinions like I am want to do (Gerd of course being the exeption).

A song to celebrate a sunny Spring day.  I used to listen to this song a lot twenty-one years ago while recovering from a broken neck and ever since then it's been very comforting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Levels of Reality Beyond Our Immediate Senses

My daughter is really into the shows Cosmos and Into the Wormhole so I've been getting a hefty dose of family-oriented science lately.  I like it because it gets my imagination going and my poor little brain needs things to keep it working or it uses all that energy to worry.  I kind of have a crush on Neal Degrasse Tyson just because I could listen to him talk forever.  It's not like how Buck Brannaman's voice is just so relaxing you could happily sit and listen to him read a grocery list, it's the ideas and the knowledge that come out of the former's mouth.   I guess I should say I have a crush on him despite that he (accidentally) destroyed Pluto's status as a planet.  Right now he's talking about Tardigrades.  They are so cute. I think I'm going to make stuffed, plushy Tardigrades.

One of our ponies at pony school was feeling very cranky so we started working with him more outside of classes.  He's pretty small and not as old as some of our small ponies so all his "work" was mostly leadline rides with our young beginners as they are building balance and body memory. But he was definitely unhappy.  Then we all started taking turns working with him, lunging him and giving him some challenges.  I don't know what others have been doing but I found that he was really good at liberty ground work so after I work him lunging at walk, trot and canter, I do some liberty work with him.  Suddenly, he became the perfect pony for me!  He watches me out of the corner of his eye the whole time we're working together and is always waiting for my instruction and then happily and willingly does what I ask.  He seems very quick at figuring out what I'm asking and is excited when he gets it right.  And I'm seeing that he was just waiting for something to keep his smart little brain occupied.  He's currently my favorite of the ponies (yes, that changes every few weeks so everyone gets their chance apparently).  I'm a lot like him I think.

Speaking of ponies who need work, Geir is getting fat.  So, I need to make time to work him at least four times a week beyond just the lessons he's used for.  The head of the school asked if I wanted her to put him more classes, but because of his amazingly sweet temperament he's best used for beginner kids who are either disabled, very afraid, or have balance issues, because he's so strong and sturdy. So, his lessons are basically standing still dozing, walking slowly and trotting around the arena maybe once.  So, I need to make sure I have time to keep working with him to get him in shape myself.  I do think he's doing better.  Trainer KL has been a huge help in teaching me how to get him into shape.

I want to get to that point someday where I can actually train my own  horses but I'm still feeling so ignorant regarding proper horse body mechanics.  I'm doing pretty well with human body mechanics for riding but I feel like horse body mechanics - using one's body properly - is still such an unreachable enigma.  There are so many contradicting modes of thought on how a horse properly uses their body and what that looks like.   I don't have the wherewithal to be a controversial person like Gerd Heuschmann who claims to know all the answers about training.  But I do want to know for sure I am teaching my students correctly.

I don't know if I'm ever going to get my endorsement from the State to be an equine massage practitioner.  Ok, obviously I will someday but I sent in my application two months ago and I haven't heard if they've ever even received it.  So, I'm just giving up for the time being on making a business doing equine massage.  I will obviously do it for a job at some point and I'm really enjoying using what I've learned on my horse and the ponies at pony school.  But right now my only job is riding instructor so I'm trying to focus more on studying that.

I also want to get back to working on my writing.  I need to finish up my novel based on Toadie because I had an idea for a new novel that takes place on an island based on Poveglia, after reading an article this morning that it is for sale.

Friday, April 11, 2014

This is what middle age and chronic illness looks like ... apparently.

Last weekend I was taking my Manual Ligament Therapy course and the school had written on a white board some of their upcoming classes and one of them just said "Trick Riding" for this weekend.  I asked what it was and they said stuff like standing up on a horse while it trots, etc.  I figured there was no way I could do it but I asked some more questions and one of the teachers (who'd taken the class last year) said not to worry, they wouldn't have us standing on the horse in the first class or even going up on our knees or anything.  It will just be fun stuff and learning how to fall and doing emergency dismounts.  So, I signed myself and my daughter up.

But I forgot that at this time last year my daughter had such a bad phobia of horses (after my fall in Jan. '13) that she wouldn't even get out of the car to be in the same barn with ponies who were quiet and tied up.  So, not surprisingly she got very anxious and said she didn't want to take her class.  So, I gave it away to my husband's BFF who has been making and effort to "try lots of new things".  But just in case I packed her helmet and told her if it looked like fun and she changed her mind she could have my lesson time.  Unfortunately, for me it only took ten minutes and she started edging toward the ring with a strained look and Gino, the instructor asked, "Do you want to ride now?" and she said, "Yes! Please!" and I had to hold to it and hop off the horse and give her a chance.

To be honest I wasn't sure if I could do it.  When I got there, Gino (the instructor) said I was going to be going up on my knees on the horse and I said I wasn't sure I could do that cause I'm old and breakable and he blew that statement off and said, "Sure you can."  He showed me how to sit on the horse and hold onto the handles on the vaulting harness - and it's quite different from Dressage - you have your legs straight and out to the side and point your toes.  I asked him why and he said it's just a look, just like riders have a heels down look, vaulters and trick riders point their toes.  He said the legs out were a way to learn to balance without holding on with your legs at all so you have to balance right at your core.  But it's also "a look".

I was pretty worried at first because you have to kneel on the horse and support your body with your arms and feet and with all the joint damage in my wrists I was worried about that.  I also worried I wasn't strong enough.  As it is my core is getting nice and strong but I have a lot of strength training to do still for my legs and my upper body as far as "push-ups" and "bench press" muscles go.  I can carry a 125 lb bale of hay but that's more core strength.  So, now I want to work on before the next clinic next year.  But the point is I did it!  And it felt really good!  Nine years ago when I was struggling just to be able to grasp things in my hands or walk up and down stairs because the Rheumatoid Arthritis had hit me so badly, I was concerned I would never be physically strong again.  I also had years of re-occuring nightmares of being crippled.  So, to be able to get out and do this class was awesome!  And I did pretty well for a middle-aged woman and really well for a middle-aged woman who is technically "disabled".   Yay! Life is good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All about necropsies

There are two dueling parts of me - the super-empathetic, bleeding heart part of me and the super-into science part of me.  Well, usually they aren't dueling, usually those two parts of me get along fine and even the "I love everything magical and spiritual" fits in quite well with hard science like biology and physics because both of those are extremely magical sciences that encourage you to use your imagination and stretch your concept of reality in order to continue to learn.

But they do clash when it comes to dissection.  Or necropsies.  The reason this topic came up is I was at a weekend class and I saw that they had some photos of a horse behind the big horse skeleton they recently put up (about six months ago I think).  It turns out it was one of their horses and I made the mistake of asking, "How did you get the skeleton out?"  (because I've heard from hunters how incredibly hard it is to butcher a deer or elk and how you have to be really strong ... plus, they aren't preserving the skeleton and are just taking off the meat).  The teachers both said they did a necropsy and seemed to think that would satisfy my curiosity (poor teachers!)  but of course it did not.  I had to ask how they got the skeleton out (the answer "very carefully") and what they did with the other organic material (there are a few options but the most practical is to burn ... or "cremate" it if you want to sound more delicate).  And I asked how the bones were cleaned and there are a couple options apparently - something I think they called a beetle pit where other creatures clean the bones or putting them underneath a lot of organic material like manure for several months and let the remaining organic material break down.  Then I can't remember what they said they did after they took them out after several months - I'm pretty sure they said there was another step - then they sand the remaining fatty tissue off ... I can't remember why they said it hardens.  They can't get the marrow out of the bones so on the skeleton there are sticky places around the joints that look like dried honey and that's the marrow slowly seeping out over time.  Oh, and of course since they're using it in a classroom setting they sterilize the bones with a bath of hydrogen peroxide or something like that for students touching them.  I had a ton of other questions but of course that was not what the class was about so I sadly let the subject drop.

Needless to say a couple months ago when I brought the dogs in as practice bodies for the canine massage class, the pitbull walked up to the skeleton and gently opened her mouth next to one of the legs as if to say, "Can I? Really? Can I?"  because to her it was the best treat in the world.

I wasn't sure what a necropsy was so I did a google search on it and found this page.  (warning - there are photos).  I had to say out loud to myself a couple times "Poor little guy is already dead.  He's not there anymore."  I'm getting better with that with animals.  There is no way I could watch a human autopsy though without fainting.  I'm pretty sure I will never be able to do that.  But I'm getting better with veterinary stuff.  I think the turning point was when Girlfriend had a bloody nose in the wash wrack with my vet and me and I was wearing my raincoat and she was wearing waterproof coveralls and we were both totally covered in blood and I had to take the drain cover off the drain because horse blood clots are too big to get through a drain cover.

What I can't deal with still is horses who are terrified or in pain and screaming and panicking.  I mean, I can deal with it but it breaks my heart and makes me feel terrible inside.  On Saturday Maiden left to go live in Montana with a friend of mine who is taking her with her to college this September to use her in some sort of natural horsemanship degree program at U of Montana in Dillon.  I know it's a great opportunity for Maiden and I'm so happy to be able to give my friend her own horse to use in the program (that's a requirement is to be able to bring your own horse) but it was hard to say good-bye to her and harder knowing how bonded she and Girlfriend are.  So, it's good that they left Saturday while I was in class or I would've been a complete emotional wreck and not been able to do anything to help Girlfriend and probably would've made her feel worse by my being so upset.  Yesterday once we were home and I went out to see her she was doing fine but her eyes were so sad!  They were very blank and sad and resigned and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better.   She has the mini and and another horse in the pasture right next door and we were going to put the mini in with her - but she just ignores him anyway and doesn't like him much.  So, that was heartbreaking.  But she'll adjust.  And I've got some ideas of finding a friend for her.  Sigh. 

This is where the bleeding heart part of me comes in and I can't just step back and say "She's a horse. What's the big deal?" because you can look in her eyes and see the depth of emotion she feels.  She may not be able to think about the future and plan like us or concoct schemes or take steps of logical reasoning and figure out logic puzzles, but she has the same depth of emotion and memory as we do and it's hard to see her so sad.